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Kula Suttaṃ

(S.iv.322)

Compassion for Families

361. One one time the Blessed One was touring the kingdom of King Kosala with a large following of monks and arrived at Nāḷandā. There, the Blessed One stayed at Nāḷandā in the mango grove of Pāvārika. [323] On that occasion there was a famine in Nāḷandā, food was scarce, white bones were scattered here and there, and the people subsisted on grass.¹ On that occasion Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta was dwelling at Nāḷandā together with a large following of naked ascetics. Then the headman Asibandhakaputta, who was a disciple of the naked ascetics, approached Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta, having approached, he paid homage to Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta and sat down at one side. As he was sitting at one side, Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta said to Asibandhakaputta: “Come, headman, refute the doctrine of the recluse Gotama. Thus your fame will spread: ‘The headman Asibandhakaputta refuted the doctrine of the recluse Gotama, who is so powerful and majestic.’”

“How, venerable sir, will I refute the doctrine of the recluse Gotama, who is so powerful and majestic?”

“Come, headman, approach the recluse Gotama, and having approached him say this: ‘Venerable sir, doesn’t the Blessed One in various ways praise having sympathy for families, protecting families, having compassion for families?’ If, headman, when questioned thus, if the recluse Gotama replies: ‘It is so, headman, the Tathāgata does in various ways praise having sympathy for families, protecting families, having compassion for families,’ then you should say this: ‘Then why, venerable sir, is the Blessed One touring with a large following of monks when there is a famine, food is scarce, white bones are scattered here and there, and the people subsist on grass? The Blessed One is practising for the destruction of families, for the distress of families, for the harm of families!’ When asked this double-edged question by you, headman, the recluse Gotama will be unable to spit it out or swallow it.” [324]

Having replied, “It is so, venerable sir,” to Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta, having paid homage to him, he departed keeping him on his right side. He approached the Blessed One, having approached, and having paid homage to the Blessed One, he sat down at one side. Sitting at one side, the headman Asibandhakaputta said to the Blessed One: “Venerable sir, doesn’t the Blessed One in various ways praise having sympathy for families, protecting families, having compassion for families?”

“It is so, headman, the Tathāgata in various ways praises having sympathy for families, protecting families, having compassion for families.”

“Then why, venerable sir, is the Blessed One touring with a large following of monks when there is a famine, food is scarce, white bones are scattered here and there, and the people subsist on grass. The Blessed One is practising for the destruction of families, for the distress of families, for the harm of families!”

“Headman, I can remember back for ninety-one aeons, but I do not know of any family ever being destroyed merely by offering almsfood. Whatever families there are who are wealthy, of great wealth, with much property, with abundant gold and silver, abundant possessions, abundant wealth and grain, all of them were acquired through generosity, truthfulness, and recluseship (sāmañña).²

“There are eight root causes (hetū), eight conditions (paccayā), headman, for the harm of families:³ due to the king, due to thieves, due to fire, due to flooding, due to hidden treasure disappearing, due to a badly undertaken business plan, due to a wastrel arising in the family who squanders, dissipates, and wastes their wealth, [325] or due to it being impermanent as the eighth. These, headman, are the eight root causes, the eight conditions for the harm of families. These, eight root causes, these eight conditions, headman, exist so whoever says about me: ‘The Blessed One practises for the destruction of families, for the distress of families, for the harm of families,’ without having retracted those words, without having renounced that thought, without having abandoned that view, will arise in hell as surely as if taken and dragged there.”

When this was said, the headman Asibandhakaputta said to the Blessed One: “It is wonderful, venerable sir, it is marvellous, venerable sir! It is as if, venerable sir, someone had set upright what had been overturned, revealed what was hidden, pointed out the path to one who was lost, brought a light into the darkness so that those with eyes can see. Thus, venerable sir, the Blessed One has explained the Dhamma in various ways. I go for refuge to the Blessed One, to the Dhamma, and to the Saṅgha. May the Blessed One regard me as a disciple who has taken refuge from today for as long as I shall live.”

Kula Suttaṃ

(A.iv.387)

Approaching Families

17. “Endowed with these nine factors, monks, a family is not worth approaching, or having approached is not worth sitting with. What nine?

  1. They do not rise from their seat in a pleasing way.
  2. They do not pay homage in a pleasing way.⁴
  3. They do not offer a seat in a pleasing way.
  4. They conceal what they have.
  5. Though they have much, they give little.
  6. Though they have superior things, they give poor quality things.
  7. They offer without respect, not respectfully.
  8. They do not sit nearby to listen to the Dhamma.
  9. They do not listen attentively to what is said.

“Endowed with these nine factors, monks, a family is not worth approaching, or having approached is not worth sitting with.

“Endowed with these nine factors, monks, a family is worth approaching, or having approached is worth sitting with. What nine?

  1. They rise from their seat in a pleasing way.
  2. They pay homage in a pleasing way.
  3. They offer a seat in a pleasing way.
  4. They reveal what they have.
  5. When they have much, [388] they give a lot.
  6. When they have superior things, they give superior things.
  7. They offer respect, not disrespectfully.
  8. They sit nearby to listen to the Dhamma.
  9. They listen attentively to what is said.

“Endowed with these nine factors, monks, a family is worth approaching, or having approached is worth sitting with.”

Notes:

1. White bones (setaṭṭhikā). The Vinaya Commentary on the famine at Verañja gives a different meaning based on a variant reading of setaṭṭikā as being a crop disease that results in no grain being produced. Either way, one should understand that food was very hard to get, so people would go hungry if offering alms to the monks. Bhikkhu Bodhi adopts the explanation given for the variant reading. I prefer to translate the original text as no variant reading is given in the text for setaṭṭhikā.

2. The Commentary glosses as sāmaññaṃ means the remaining virtues (sesasīlaṃ). The meaning of sāmañña is recluseship, striving to live in solitude and renounce sensual pleasures.

3. Only for the harm of families (kulānaṃ upaghātāya) is said here, not for the destruction of families (kulānaṃ ucchedāya), or the distress of families (kulānaṃ ananāya). These eight factors would lead to harm, and to misery and destruction in due course. I could not find the list in the Book of Eights, the Aṅguttaranikāya.

4. The way of paying homage varies according to culture, but not everyone knows their own culture. Children need to be shown how to pay homage and offer alms respectfully.

5. The Devatā Suttaṃ, A.iv.390, relates how different groups of deities visited the Blessed One at the Jeta Grove during the night and expressed their regret at not having fulfilling their duties when monks approached their homes for alms. They were therefore reborn as inferior deities. Those who fulfilled their duties were reborn as superior deities.